Setting the tone; a party in Bohler kicked off basketball season

Dustin Brennan | Evergreen assistant sports editor

Washington State students packed Bohler gym Saturday night for the first PREseason FUNKtion of men’s basketball Head Coach Ernie Kent’s tenure.

Kent said the party-like atmosphere present in the gym is exactly the attitude he wants from the student section for the rest of the season.

“I thought the students responded wonderfully and that’s exactly what we need in Beasley,” Kent said. “We need the same kind of energy in the building only with more of them. I’m hoping we can even get the D.J.’s in there from time to time and just have it be one big party.”

A party was exactly how the event was structured. D.J. Goldfinger and D.J. Royal set up in Bohler’s rafters on opposite ends of the gym and entertained the student section throughout the PRE FUNK. Students were given raffle prizes that included an Xbox One, a Playstation 4, a 47” LG TV, and more, and were treated to skits put on by the Cougar basketball team.

The main event of the night was the Crimson vs. White scrimmage that gave students a chance to see their basketball team play for the first time under Kent. The scrimmage also gave the team’s young players the opportunity to play in front of a live crowd for the first time in their college careers.

“I thought the new guys played like new guys, but those freshmen are freshmen and they’ll get better over time,” Kent said. “Realize that not only are these guys dealing with a new school, a new coaching staff, a new team, but they’re also dealing with a new system.”

One of those new guys who got his first shot in front of the student section on Saturday was Trevor Dunbar, the highly-touted freshman point guard out of San Francisco’s St. Ignatius Prep. Dunbar spent most of the scrimmage filling the role of a pass-first point guard for the Crimson team, playing opposite sophomore Ike Iroegbu.

“I was nervous yet excited, in fact I was a little bit too excited,” Dunbar said. “I had a lot of energy, and I was just pumped coming out of warm-ups. I think all the excitement and nervousness really affected my game.”

Kent said the new player he was impressed with most was Valentine Izundu, even though he’s not a “new guy” per say. The junior transfer from the University of Houston blocked multiple shots Saturday and showed that, at 6 foot 10 inches, he has the vertical to be a force in the Pac-12. Kent also said junior forward Aaron Cheatum, who transferred from East Los Angeles College, did not participate in the scrimmage because he was “banged up a little bit.”

The scrimmage not only gave WSU students a chance to see Kent’s team play for the first time, but also gave Cougs the opportunity to see Kent’s system in action. The tempo was fast and included a lot of players, including the big men, taking jump shots when they were able to get open, often within the first ten seconds of the shot clock.

“There’s opportunity in (Kent’s) system to take quick shots if you’re open,” senior guard DaVonté Lacy said. “I think a lot of quick shots guys were taking had to do with playing in front of a crowd for the first time. But in (Kent’s) offense, if you are open, you have the green light to take a shot and let it fly.”

The skits that preceded the scrimmage were highlighted by sophomore forward Josh Hawkinson lip-syncing R. Kelly’s “Bump n’ Grind” and Dunbar freestyle rapping for the students. However, no other performance brought down the house quite like Kent, accompanied by the Crimson Girls, dancing to “The Hustle” by Van McCoy & the Soul City Symphony.

“We met and did it in ten minutes and I’ll leave it at that,” Kent said. “That’s old school.”

The night concluded with Kent donating $1,000 to both Alpha Omicron Pi and Farmhouse’s philanthropies for having the best attendance at the PRE FUNK.